Sunday, August 15, 2010

Good-bye. Hello.

My grandmother, expecting my father.
My grandmother died 23 years ago. On the day of her funeral, I had a secret burrowed down deep inside me.

Days before, while my father's voice had choked out the sad news across the phone line, my first morning urine worked away in a vial on the bathroom counter, turning the plastic stick an undeniable blue. My tears had sprung from sorrow but fell with joy.

At the funeral, the happy and the sad within me circled around and up and over each other, like ingredients in a recipe that refused to blend.

I was the firstborn child, the first grandchild, the first niece in my generation of our family. And my father was the firstborn in his generation. I counted the months on my fingers; the baby would be born right alongside my father's fiftieth birthday. The firstborn in the next generation.

I placed my hand flat against my abdomen as my father and uncles carried their mother's casket past me. Everyone always said I had my grandmother's small shoulders and tiny wrists. I could see a a baby's fat cheek resting on her shoulder. I could see warm formula tested on her wrist, on my wrist.

Later, I would share my secret with my grandfather, my parents, my brother and sister, my aunts, uncles, and cousins. But for those few moments, it was just us; two young women sipping tea, caught somewhere in a folded layer of time, whispering about the mysteries of birth and death and everything in between.


  1. I remember how happy and excited everyone was when you shared the news.
    And those tiny shoulders you two share? They sure carried a lot of weight through the years!
    I know Grandma, Grandpa and Daddy are checking your blog. "DONALD! What did she write about this week? I want to save it."
    "Move over, I can't see the screen..."*Grumble Grumble*
    "I always knew she had my writing skills."*Beaming with pride*

  2. Sere, That was beautiful, and brought back memories of my grandmother. Thank you for sharing.

  3. This gives me shivers ... we found out we were pregnant (a surprise) the day my father-in-law was diagnosed with a terminal illness (he has since had a heart transplant and is doing well). But I'll never forget that day, when I felt, as you so eloquently say, the happy and the sad circling up and around each other, and death and birth folding into one complicated expression of life. It's why my daughter's name is Grace.

  4. @Suzanne: Grandma would be trying to figure out a way to put rubber bands around a blog.

    @SeaD: Oh, I'm so glad. Thank you for reading.

    @Lindsey: Such a similar experience...I'm glad your father-in-law is doing well now. My favorite girl's name happens to be Grace.

  5. Beautiful writing, and full of meaning. How one generation follows the next, and birth and death walk hand-in-hand - in a good way. I'm glad you showed your grandmother's picture, with her looking so gracious and happy, and expecting your father all those years ago. I felt as if she knew even then that she would be giving birth, not only to your father, but to generations of other new mothers.

  6. @Penelope: What a lovely thought. Thank you for that!

  7. I, too, was pregnant when my grandmother died. No one knew but me. I remember standing at her grave and telling her (telepathically) that only she and I knew my secret.

  8. @elle: Yet another thing we have in common.